I’ll be writing more these days about the atomic unit upon which all leadership is built – what I’m calling LeadingX2 or leading by 2. I am referring to the way in which you can lead and be led by one other person. The other could be your boss, a peer, or a direct report. (Or, when leading in family it could be a parent, sibling, or a child.)
Here’s a model of Lesson One for leading by two and why you should do it:
Mary Zatina led by 2. She led me. I met Mary when I taught the leadership component each month for a program called Leadership Detroit; she was a participant, communications director at the time for Michigan Consolidated Gas. Shortly after the program ended my wife entered the Democratic primary for governor, and a couple weeks later Mary expressed an interest in helping out. We met for coffee, and she reiterated that desire to help. I told her Jennifer would be thrilled to have such a good communications person to assist her. She threw me for a loop when she said, “I don’t want to help her. I want to help you.”
Lesson One (straight out of Stephen Covey): be proactive! Who do you really respect? Who could you see contributing to in important ways? Seek them out! Offer your help.
I have been insanely luck to have people who have proactively come to me and said, “can I help?” I might miss one or two, but there are Janet Lawson, Jim Kouzes, Cathy Raines, Cindy Eggleton, Suneeta Israni, Kunal Agarwal, John Burkhardt, David Adams, Hank and Carole Love, and David Katz.
Here were some of the results, every one of which was true with regards to the great Mary Zatina with her proactive offer and repeated follow-through, and true as well of all the others:
- They made me feel I mattered and that my work mattered. This:
- Increased my motivation to work.
- I trusted them. (Sometimes I was in or around politics, or I had some power or influence, so I admit that I didn’t all-out trust every one, right from the beginning. But their sincere desire over time eliminated all of my resistance.) And once I trusted them, at least 5 things flowed from that trust:
- I listened to their constructive criticism and I improved. Mary would tell me: Stand up when you’re doing a radio interview on the phone, because you have more energy that way. She was right!
- I accepted that their compliments were sincere and was more confident.
- I sought them out as sounding boards. Jim Kouzes always listens and brings so much experience and research knowledge.
- I let them hear my doubts, so that I could figure out the tough issues – whethery they were emotional and/or cognitive. Cathy Raines, for example, would listen and never judge but only discern with me, asking me tough questions in a kind way.
- I accessed whole new skills and abilities: Kunal’s amazing vision for how I could use IT better, Suneeta’s extraordinary confidence in executing when I would get stuck, Hank’s ability to organize a huge research project and his wife Carole’s incredible ability to take on any challenge that Jennifer or I threw her way.
These results are, of course, what I got from leading by two with them. But leading is about impact, right? It’s not what you GET but how you can GIVE in order to help make positive change! So, imagine what you could do by finding someone you admire and to whom you think you can contribute. What a difference you can make. Make the offer!
And in case it’s not obvious, I would do just about anything for everyone on this list of mine. I have a Karmic debt to all of them (and to many others with whom I have led). So with nearly each one, they have led me X 2, and at other times I have led them. We encouraged and challenged and expanded each other 2 x 2 to
Lead with OUR best selves.